Gold Coast estate agency fined $50,000 over 231 cases of trust account misuses

Gold Coast real estate company Staymint has been fined $50,000 for 231 counts of dishonestly converting trust account money to its own use.

The offences occurred over more than a year while Staymint operated the Broadbeach holiday apartment complex Carmel by the Sea.

The fine was handed down in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last week after Staymint pleaded guilty to wrongfully converting $141,466 in trust money between 1 July 2011 and 1 August 2012.

The court heard Staymint staff booked tenants into rooms in Carmel by the Sea’s letting pool then, after the guest had checked out, changed the records to indicate the guest had stayed in a leaseback unit.

Lease back units are units for which the property manager guarantees the landlord a set return. If the unit returns less than the guaranteed amount, the property manager must make up the shortfall. If it returns more than the guaranteed amount, the property manager retains the additional income as profit.

Rather than transfer the amount earned from a guest staying at a unit to the unit owner, Staymint transferring the amount earned from this stay to its own accounts.

The Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated after a unit owner complained he had not received rent from tenants who had signed the guest book in his unit.

The OFT executed a search warrant on Staymint’s office, seizing a hard drive and trust account records that showed the company had wrongfully transferred $141,466 to its own account.

The court heard Staymint is in the process of repaying the 34 affected unit owners, with $75,000 paid to date.

No conviction was recorded against the company.

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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